Football season has begun and as a result there will be renewed interest in the management of concussion in sports. Our faculty and students are leaders in the prevention, management and rehabilitation of sport-related concussion. This week we highlight recently published work that focuses on promoting prevention strategies for concussion in sport. Many thanks to Elizabeth Teel (PhD student in the HMSC doctoral program) for this week’s EXSS Impact content.
Why did you do this study?
Concussions affect millions of individuals each year and are a popular discussion topic in the media. While concussions are known to cause short-term symptoms as well as neurocognitive and balance deficits, researchers are still investigating whether concussions or cumulative sub-concussive impacts may lead to late-life cognitive decline. Experts in the field have not reached a consensus on this issue, but youth sports participation, particularly in football, have begun to decline in part due to fears surrounding this topic. Some researchers fear that without the physical activity provided by organized sport, America’s youth will continue to become more sedentary and contribute to a growing childhood obesity epidemic. While most information surrounding concussion revolves around the mechanics of the injury and the short and long-term deficits following injury, few studies have investigated mechanisms to prevent concussions from occurring. While most individuals recognize the importance of physicians and athletic trainers in managing the injury, we wanted to look at other, often overlooked, sporting entities that can assist in concussion prevention. So for this study, we wanted to answer the question: What nontraditional, multidisciplinary teams can be utilized to enhance athlete safety and reduce concussive injuries?
What did you do and what did you find?
We reviewed the scientific literature as well as the concussion policies and procedures for several sporting organizations. We pulled out relevant material from all of these documents and organized it into specific focus areas that can directly and indirectly contribute to athlete safety and concussion prevention. The focus areas we described were: equipment makers, coaches, governing bodies of sport/sport leagues, legislators, and society and fans at large. Whether it be through making the safest possible equipment, teaching and enforcing proper sport techniques, or creating laws, policies, or rules, all of these groups can enhance the safety of play for all sports, which can help to prevent concussions.
How do theses findings affect the public?
The findings of our study indicate the every individual, even the casual sporting fan, can play an important role in contributing to the health and safety of athletes. While we may never be able to completely prevent concussions from occurring, there are a number of feasible ways that we can reduce the likelihood of sustaining a concussion and better managing the injury if a concussion does occur. Future research should use quantitative methods to explore the effectiveness of these strategies in reducing the prevalence of concussions. With more research surrounding concussion prevention and the benefits of sport and physical activity, we can hopefully help educate youth athletes and their parents not only on the risks, but also the numerous physical, psychological, and social benefits of physical activity athletic participation.